Sound-proof metamaterial inspired by spider webs

September 7, 2016 by Lisa Zyga, Phys.org feature
Different vibration mode shapes of the spider-web-inspired acoustic metamaterial. Credit: M. Miniaci et al. ©2016 AIP Publishing

(Phys.org)—Spider silk is well-known for its unusual combination of being both lightweight and extremely strong—in some cases, stronger than steel. Due to these properties, researchers have been developing spider-silk-inspired materials for potential applications such as durable yet lightweight clothing, bullet-proof vests, and parachutes.

But so far, the acoustic properties of spider webs have not yet been explored. Now in a new study, a team of researchers from Italy, France and the UK has designed an acoustic metamaterial (which is a material made of periodically repeating structures) influenced by the intricate spider web architecture of the golden silk orb-weaver, also called the Nephila spider.

"There has been much work in the field of metamaterials in recent years to find the most efficient configurations for wave attenuation and manipulation," coauthor Federico Bosia, a physicist at the University of Torino in Italy, told Phys.org. "We have found that the spider web architecture, combined with the variable elastic properties of radial and circumferential silk, is capable of attenuating and absorbing vibrations in wide frequency ranges, despite being lightweight."

By modeling different versions of the new spider-web-inspired acoustic metamaterial, the researchers demonstrated that the new design is more efficient at inhibiting low-frequency sound and is more easily tuned to different frequencies than other sound-controlling materials. Combined with the stiffening mechanical properties and the heterogeneity of spider silk, the tunable acoustic properties demonstrated here suggest that spider-web-inspired metamaterials could lead to a new class of applications for controlling vibrations. Possibilities include earthquake protection for suspended bridges and buildings, noise reduction, sub-wavelength imaging, and acoustic cloaking.

The acoustic advantages of the spider web arise, at least in part, from the concentric circles, or "rings," of the web. These rings resonate at a particular frequency when exposed to vibrations. Based on this natural architecture, the researchers designed the acoustic metamaterial to have square units containing resonating rings with supporting ligaments that radiate outward from the center of the rings. The design could be incorporated into many diverse man-made structures.

"One could design vibration-isolated (and possibly earthquake-resilient) suspended bridges or tensile structures exploiting the proposed design: a periodic repetition of the spider-web-like units integrated among the main and suspender cables," Bosia said. "At smaller scales, the same type of structures could be used for wave attenuation in the acoustic range, such as for sound abatement deriving from road or rail infrastructures."

The metamaterial is highly tunable because its geometry is defined by five parameters—which is more than traditional acoustic materials—and each of these parameters can be independently controlled to produce a vast number of designs that respond to different acoustic frequencies. The frequency range that is inhibited by these materials is called the band gap, and here the researchers showed that spider-web-inspired acoustic metamaterials can have wide band gaps, with large ranges of tunability.

In the future, the researchers plan to further investigate the unusual vibration-reducing properties of , and how to take advantage of them for applications.

"We want to study the vibrational properties of a single spider web (as opposed to its periodic repetition as in the present work), to try to understand if its structure allows vibration attenuation and focusing effects at different locations that are functional to the spider's needs," Bosia said. "In general, we also aim to look at other possible bio-inspired designs for metamaterials, possibly based on hierarchical architectures, for attenuation at multiple frequency scales. We are also trying to bring some of these concepts to large scales, for applications such as seismic shields."

Explore further: Tuning the instrument: Spider webs as vibration transmission structures

More information: M. Miniaci, A. Krushynska, A. B. Movchan, F. Bosia, and N. Pugno. "Spider web-inspired acoustic metamaterials." Applied Physics Letters. (2016), 109, 071905; DOI: 10.1063/1.4961307

Related Stories

Spiders spin unique phononic material

July 25, 2016

New discoveries about spider silk could inspire novel materials to manipulate sound and heat in the same way semiconducting circuits manipulate electrons, according to scientists at Rice University, in Europe and in Singapore.

Spider signal threads reveal remote sensing design secrets

December 16, 2015

When you look at a spider web in the garden, one thing is often noticeably absent: the spider. This may be because it is lurking away from the web in a 'retreat', where it can monitor web vibrations through a proxy known ...

Spiders know the meaning of web music

June 3, 2014

Spider silk transmits vibrations across a wide range of frequencies so that, when plucked like a guitar string, its sound carries information about prey, mates, and even the structural integrity of a web.

Recommended for you

On the rebound

January 22, 2018

Our bodies have a remarkable ability to heal from broken ankles or dislocated wrists. Now, a new study has shown that some nanoparticles can also "self-heal" after experiencing intense strain, once that strain is removed.

Nanoparticle gel controls twisted light with magnetism

January 22, 2018

"Help me, Obi Wan Kenobi. You're my only hope." For many of those around at the release of Star Wars in 1977, that scene was a first introduction to holograms—a real technology that had been around for roughly 15 years.

10 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Sonhouse
not rated yet Sep 07, 2016
I'd love some for my acoustic studio!
Macksb
not rated yet Sep 07, 2016
Congratulations! Smart and creative.
longislandfinder
not rated yet Sep 07, 2016
The title sounds interesting, but if you take a close look at the microstructure, the finding presented here has nothing to do with spider silk. It is quite common that a lot of researchers now use some xx words, while don't give any scientific contribution.
Macksb
2 / 5 (1) Sep 07, 2016
The title does not mention spider silk.
longislandfinder
not rated yet Sep 07, 2016
The title does not mention spider silk.

this article begins with spider silk and the authors talked a lot about spider web. I mean the acoustic properties has nothing to do with spider web, even they say bio-inspired.
longislandfinder
not rated yet Sep 07, 2016
for me, i would say the structure is just a simple lattice. this paper may be more interesting: Nonlinear control of high-frequency phonons in spider silk
Telekinetic
not rated yet Sep 07, 2016


I'd love some for my acoustic studio!

You can use a great product called Armaflex now without the wait. Sucks up noise very well.
Whydening Gyre
not rated yet Sep 07, 2016
The title does not mention spider silk.

this article begins with spider silk and the authors talked a lot about spider web. I mean the acoustic properties has nothing to do with spider web, even they say bio-inspired.

The geometric arrangement of 'spider silk" is the "Spider -web". BOTH contribute to acoustic properties.
Thorium Boy
not rated yet Sep 07, 2016
Frequencies? Attenuation? Cost per sq. ft, estimate?
longislandfinder
not rated yet Sep 08, 2016
The title does not mention spider silk.

this article begins with spider silk and the authors talked a lot about spider web. I mean the acoustic properties has nothing to do with spider web, even they say bio-inspired.

The geometric arrangement of 'spider silk" is the "Spider -web". BOTH contribute to acoustic properties.


In fact, the coordinate numbers and the slenderness ratio are the critical geometric parameters accounting for the acoustic properties. The physical mechanisms are nothing new, both local resonance and bragg scattering.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.